There comes a time in every Dwarf’s life where the breath of mortality draws ever less shallow, and we wonder if we are made of what we are. The Elves, if you believe their kind, are made of something not this earth; the men of either mud or beast; and the dwarves well, we all know, of stone. As unyielding as the mountains are our people. When the forest burns and all are laid to waste, the mountains shall still stand, high, and yet into the earth also burrow. Perhaps, as children of the stone, we’re the only ones who do see, the roots of a mountains even more sturdy than any great tower or castle that those who dwell under the open skies may claim.
No rest for the adventurous dwarf, as I say. Last time, I’d written, I’d been chained to shed wall, awaiting execution or slavery, not knowing whether I’d survive the night. I’m happy to report that my companions did not fail to rescue me. Though they did not manage to prevent the slaughter of the village, the fellowship prevailed, and we made our journey back to the Easterly Inn. As you can imagine, I was neither in the constitutional nor cordial aspect to attend to guests nor travelers, or even worse, the bereft survivors of the thieves’ massacre. Rarely did I venture into inn nor was seen about the settlement that season but neither did I remain idle. Perhaps, my desire natural desire to remain alone or reflections upon future possible escape plans, colored my decision, but I decided the spend the winter learning a further spell of our people. Not to sound bad-tempered, but I did enjoy seeing people being flabbergasted whenever they suddenly couldn’t open a previously unlocked door, no matter what they tried. While not learning the new runes and incantations, I spent my time at the smithy, reforging my axe. A new shipment of dwarven steel helped sharpen the blade though I’ve yet to think up a name. So many possibilities.
Towards the middle of fall, I came out of my isolation and finally decided to come to the inn once again. As luck would have it, the first few creatures I meet there were Elves. A whole host of them surrounding a lady of obviously high birth. Perhaps it was the months alone with only the books, the rune, the forge, and the cantankerous smith for company, or perhaps it is that the right adventure tends to find the right adventurers all of its own (strange, yes, but when you take to the road one day, you might understand), but I decided to join them. Brother Korum swiftly warned me to not immediate evoke our old enmities.
“They are, after all, paying the bill,” he said. That line of reasoning did work for me. After all, in any culture, a gracious host is a gracious host, and in any case, the success of the inn bodes well for the success of the settlement as a whole.
I listened to their tale for a while trying to determine the rationale for their journey. Obviously, they were well armed with bows except for the noble lady, Irimei, who, if she may be believed has been alive for almost a millennium. The leader, Legolas, claimed their mission was to escort the lady to the High Pass. And here, much to my chagrin, began the contest to fellowship to gain the lady’s, and by extension, the elves’ favor. They were looking for adventurers and the adventure has found us. Surprisingly or perhaps fittingly, given Dog (The Dog and Bill) and Falco’s (Falco Strangefoot) obvious love for all things pointy-eared, fared the worst. After a bout of bad singing and some rather inappropriate offers of pipe-weed, the lady absolutely refused to talk to the two for the rest of the journey. My brother and I, and a new human fellow whom I’ve yet to meet, fared better. For all one knows, given her supposed age, those rhymes of lore I’d learned working in the quarries in the realms of Men, were more real to her than the current scrap of an inn we were in right now.
Seemingly satisfied with the interview, Lady Irimei and the Elf Legolas tasked us with bringing her to the High Pass. Orcs had been chasing them, and they had need of local guides to get them through the valley. Too bad our best wayfinder had taken to one of his sullen moods and refused to join the conversation; nevertheless, I had all trust in Khorum to find us a suitable path through the wilderness. Truth be told, though, I’d a desire to test my new axe upon the head of foul globins, but as always the mission came first.
In the morning, we set off, traveling towards a river where our new companion proved his worth with the boats. At the Old Ford, a couple of Beorning guardsmen told us that bands of roving orcs abound, seemingly, in search for something. The Lady Irimei entertained us with a tall of an ancient bridge that used the span the river. Yet, alas, such was not to be found now, and we had to chance the ferry across. A few days away from the High Pass, our lookouts spotted black smoke rising from across the hills. The Orcs were on our trail and gaining fast. Lady Irimei confirm that these were not normal orcs but the most foul: the Orcs of Mordor. Though he tried our best, our scout party could find no quick path to reach the pass without confrontation. Heavy, knee (or waist high to our folk) impeded our progress. Thus, we resolved for battle, and a hilltop defendable upon three sides was found for our last stand.
Counting the flags, we were outmatched; 5 to 50 with more reinforcements pouring in to join them. Our new companion seemed shaken, perhaps his first encounter with armies of these foul creatures, while the rest of the fellowship remained strong. Standing next to Khorum, our vastly outnumbered band prepared as best we could to repel our enemies. As always, a big burly orc, burden with a broken scimitar approached us and offered: “The Elf for your lives.”
To which my brother responded,colloquially, “Come get a taste of Dwarven manhood first.”
Taken aback, the creature retreated into amassed hordes, deciding to send in his lieutenants first. Seeing battle inevitable, I glanced back at Lady Irimei and asked her for her blessing. Her eyes seeming to revert back from whatever memory she had been in, she agreed and began singing, though singing would put what happened to shame. An bluish inner glow, as best as I could put it, like the finest of sapphires or even the Arkenstone itself, gathered within her and shown bright, blinding our enemies. Into the fray, Falco and Khorum charged, while Dog, the archer let loose, and our new companion and I stood our ground, determined to not let a single orc pass through our lines.
The battle went back and forth. From behind, I heard a cry of pain as an arrow sank deep into Dog’s thigh. Yet he managed to give as much as he got, and no fewer than 3 orcs fell to his arrow shots. For my part, the new axe proved its worth; every blow felled an orc instantly. A little further ahead, the battle was not going so well for Khorum and Falco. A combination of larger orcs and archers were slowing down my brother, yet he felled them quick and advanced upon the coward leader of the host. Scimitar and Mattock clashed and fell upon armor slash grievous wounds. Finally, overcome with his injuries Khorum fell to the ground unconscious. I rushed up to attacked the creature, hoping to distract him, but it was no use. The foul creature lifted its scimitar high over it’s head ready to deliver a death blow, a look—I’ll never forget—of malice and triumph on its broke visage, when suddenly, it broke into sudden surprise and fear as large talons wrapped around its body and lifted it straight into the air. A clang of an ownerless scimitar, screams of horror, and the sound of tearing flesh were the last we ever heard from the creature.
Talons also picked us and the Lady up, but unlike any of the orcs the eagle-lords gathered, we were lifted into safety. As we were to learn, resting up on their perch, the Lady Iremi had called them when all seemed lost, and they responded to the call. These, however, we no regular giant eagles, the King of Eagles himself (…) answered the call to assist in the Lady’s noble quest, which I gathered was more important than we all suspected. Dog made himself useful, as well as impressed the King by tending one of their most injured, (…). About a week past, with Lady Iremi talking to the King, and Dog tending to both Khorum, the most injured among us, and …, the most injured among them. Meanwhile, each of us, in our own way, solicited the help of the King of Eagles. He was willing to help us, but, after our brave, but ultimately futile defense, I could understand his suspicions. Finally, it was agreed that they would deliver us back towards we were were before the orc attack.
True to their word, we were lifted back to our path before we attempted to evade the orcs. The Lady Irimei suggested that we traveled to the ruins old human settlement called to await her companions, soon to be for her. We all agreed and set off towards it. Lo and behold! It was the same settlement once we were attacked by a spirit whose rock, confirmed by Lady Irimei herself was 300 years old. The tale of the town, she told us, was one of tragedy. Half the populace moved south under the sway of a man named …, while the rest were slaughtered to the last man as a result of treachery. Towards night we determined that the two most defendable ruins in town were the remains of the old inn, and the watchtower to the edge of town. It was agreed that the stealthiest among us, Hunter (Hunter), Falco, and myself, would sneak out to the watchtower to determine its suitableness for camp.
Upon our approach, we noticed a crow perched upon the remains of the second story watchtower window eagerly eat a snail. Fearing it to be a servant of some evil, we snuck into the tower and approached it from behind. As it turned out, it was only a false omen, as the crow flew away, disrupted of its meal. The three of us agreed that the watchtower would make a suitable defensive position, and returned for the rest of the companions. Before we began watch, I put up my wards around the area just in case.
As Hunter would later claim to me, that night he saw the Lady Iremi on an outcropping of rock beyond the watchtower, singing as it seems, a haunting song to the sky. Her light, that same inner light that had dazed our enemies at the hillstone, seemed to shimmer and was fading against a shroud of darkness.
When we finally all awoke, the watchtower had been completely restored. From where there were piles of rock and debris, it was now a well kept room with a real wooden door. Unfortunately, the guards found us and forced us to leave. Feeling completely flummoxed, we could only assume that the town, no longer a ruin, before us was the same town Lady Iremi had spoken of 300 years ago before its fall. A market was in full swing, and many carts were about. Talking to anyone and everyone we knew, and Hunter even going to explore the area where he claimed Iremei had been, we established that the people who would follow … south had already left, and a man name … who had been assigned to investigate some disturbing event in Mirkwood months ago and has not returned weighed heavily upon the local citizenry’s minds.
While the rest decided to go to the tavern in town for more clues, I decided to investigate the market. If this was the town of 300 years ago, I reasoned, investigating the ways of older humans could yield clues or at least contribute to further scholarship. This was why I happened to the one who witness the host of … who returned amidst the cheers of the citizenry. Their horses barded and wearing red cloaks, they paused right in the middle of their town square, when their leader, the assumed … ordered: “Kill them all.”
The sound of blades being drawn from scabbards were the only warning the citizens of .. had before the horses ran them down. They spared no one. Men, women, children were slaughtered. After seeing a child cut in half in front of me, I could not stand by, knowing full well that history mandated this town be destroyed, and do nothing. I unslung my axe and tried to rally the people, but it was enough. Fear and carnage surrounding us, and probably unfamiliar with dwarves, they did not rally around me and were cut down fleeing. Once I saw my efforts were useless, I charged the leader instead and managed to land a hard blow of the axe on him before the coward fled and ordered his minions after me.
By this time, I saw that my companions had been alerted to massacre outside. I saw Hunter and Dog briefly at the edge of the square. Dog running to find higher ground, and Hunter warning off the attackers and defending the fleeing citizens with his longsword. Finally, realising the battle, at least for the town square, was loss, we retreated to the tavern. I must have caught several arrows and blows on my armor, but dwarven steel prevailed and I was only mildly injured before I entered the safety of the inn.
The scene was one of chaos. All manner of people, most of them useless as warriors, had gathered in the main room. Noticeable was a bard who seemed to be more interested in still making coin than the suffering around him, and an equally aloof elf in the corner brooding on some matter I had no time for. Turning around, I quickly drew the wards I’d learn after my capture on the door, sealing it, as long as the door held. Then, the sound of that same evil that lead the massacre at the square came: “It is lost, surrender the tavern.”
I answered right back through the barred gate: “Shall it be my last day to surrender to the evil I saw today.” Though I cannot be sure of the effect, the hammering on the doors and windows seemed to lighten. I also heard a distinct twang and thud of a straight arrow impact, of which I would learn later, Dog pierced the armor of the leader and coward, who once ran again.
We only had a brief respite; however, as Dog and Hunter called down from above: “Archers and… undead… carrying barrels of oil.” Reversing my runes quickly, our new human companion was the first to face a hail of arrows (which somehow remarkably missed him all), as Falco, Khorum and I charged out to save the tavern from being burned. While the others hacked at the undead, severing face and limb, I attacked at the barrels, though clumsily at first, spilling the contents on myself. My friends here from finest as they put themselves in harm’s way rather than see me burn. In quick order, we smashed the barrels with bow, swords, and axes until one were left. Feeling confident, I yelled at the archers: “Now back off!” Surprisingly, they obeyed.
We were given brief respite; however, as ahead we spotted 20 horsemen galloping our way. I believed, here, I heard sounds of fighting from the tavern, but I for one was tired of retreat today and decided to charge the horsemen straight on, with brother Khorum and brave little Falco with me. I managed to fell one horseman before we were all cut down… or so I thought.
When finally consciousness returned to me, there I was: again, captured; again weaponless; again armorless; again, chained. But this time, at least I am chained with my friends, and that gives me a measure of hope. Again, I’m writing you before what I do not know will come, and our mortality draws shallow. All I know right now is that, we’re being marched towards some worksite. If our luck prevails, I may have more adventures to tell you. If not, know that your brothers have brought no shame to the clan of Vidor, and to our last, we never gave up our quest for our father.